Knapp v. Schweitzer
357 U.S. 371 (1958)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Knapp v. Schweitzer, 357 U.S. 371 (1958)

Knapp v. Schweitzer

No. 189

Argued March 6, 10, 1958

Decided June 30, 1958

357 U.S. 371

Syllabus

Subpoenaed before a state grand jury which was conducting an inquiry regarding violations of state laws, petitioner refused to answer certain questions on the ground of possible self-incrimination. After being granted under a state statute immunity from state prosecution and being ordered by a state court to answer, petitioner persisted in his refusal on the ground that to answer the questions might expose him to federal prosecution for violation of a federal statute. For such refusal, he was convicted in the state court of contempt, and sentenced to fine and imprisonment.

Held: his conviction did not violate his rights under the Fifth Amendment, which limits only the powers of the Federal Government, and not those of the States. Pp. 357 U. S. 372-381.

(a) To sustain petitioner's contention that, because Congress has made certain conduct a federal crime, the Fifth Amendment enables him to assert against a State Government the privilege against giving testimony that might tend to implicate him in a violation of the federal statute would disregard the historic distribution of power in our federal system between the Federal Government and the States. Pp. 357 U. S. 374-377.

(b) Though the Fourteenth Amendment did impose some restrictions upon the States in the making and enforcement of criminal laws, it did not fundamentally change the great division of powers between the Federal Government and the States in the enforcement of the criminal law. P. 357 U. S. 378.

(c) The right of the States, as a means of investigating and discovering corruption and misconduct which violate state laws, to require full disclosure in exchange for immunity of a witness from state prosecution cannot be denied on the ground that it may expose the witness to prosecution under federal law. Pp. 357 U. S. 378-379.

(d) The sole purpose of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination is the security of the individual against exertion of the power of the Federal Government to compel incriminating testimony with a view to enabling the Federal Government to convict him out of his own mouth. Pp. 357 U. S. 379-380.

2 N.Y.2d 913, 975,141 N.E.2d 825,142 N.E.2d 649, affirmed.

Page 357 U. S. 372

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